Wigan away, every visit is treated like a cup game. Probably 5,000 black and white optimists heading down to the wee club in the North west.
Away fans can be afforded such numbers as Wigan still remains a footballing outpost and most definitely the poor relation to Rugby League. In fact it is probably way down the list behind Northern Soul, the famous Wigan Pier and Meat Pies.
The average home attendances are just only 19,000. Only the mighty QPR draw a smaller gate.
In spite of Wigan’s poor relation status, small budget and regular stints in the bottom three – their manager Roberto Martinez continues to slowly but surely build a team that can compete. That may sound daft as we speak they are in the bottom three, but with two games in hand you can be sure that home wins will be targeted to drag themselves out. However Wigan are not good at home, their system seems to suit playing away from the JJB Stadium.
When I see them play, I am always impressed by the way the move the ball around, but they always look like conceding and definitely have a very soft centre. On the flip side they are more than capable of turning anybody over, as we know very well. I definitely like the look of their African hitman Kone, he works his socks off and is a nuisance customer that gives defenders no peace. A poor mans Tevez possibly?
In our few jaunts to Athletic, we have played 7 (including League Cup) Lost 6, Won 1. Scoring 2 and conceding 10 – not great considering the huge away support backing the lads as mentioned. The last visit brought about a right royal tanning by the Latics, this whilst we dreamed of finishing in a top four berth. Williamson and Coloccini had a shocker that day, with Victor Moses (now with Chelsea) and former Celtic favourite Maloney taking the eye in a first half that saw Newcastle stunned and beaten 0-4.
Pardew tried to match their system in that game, to disastrous effect. Tactics soon were altered as the game sprinted away from us
My memories of Wigan were being left in the car park after our bus failed to return for us in 2007 after a miserable 0-1 defeat and somebody throwing a cheeseburger from 30 yards like Crocodile Dundees tin of beans off an aggressive Stewards head. Naughty I know, but an away day giggle!
When we played them this time last season, they were on a great run and had beaten all in their path in an unlikely streak to stay in the League. They really are a conundrum, which Wigan will we face today? The soft centred mistake laden bottom three fodder, or the gung-ho all-out positive attacking football and dangerous Wigan?
I hope we stick to our system today and show the same resolute spirit that we have shown in our last two European ties that has seen us keep four consecutive clean sheets.
Deep down I have the feeling this may be one of those back down to earth games after all the pomp and ceremony surrounding our advance in the Europa League. I hope I am totally wrong and that we scoop a League double sending us into the top ten. That would be a magnificent result after Thursday exploits.
Can we cope with the system? Can we win only our second away game of the season in the Premier League? I do fancy Cisse to bag a couple today mind, if we can keep a clean sheet we should win this game.
Prediction? Toss a coin! See you on the other side. COME ON UNITED! HTL